An exploration of students’ perceptions of Second Life for learning purposes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

The educational potential and challenges of Second Life (SL), a social immersive virtual world, have been explored in a variety of subject disciplines and educational contexts. However, there is a shortage of studies directly investigating the learners’ experience of SL. This exploratory study aims to address this gap. The study is epistemologically positioned in the interpretivist paradigm and is in alignment with the constructivist view of the world. The theory of situated learning serves as its theoretical framework. The study relied on four different methods of data collection: an online survey; course documentation; learning blogs; and semi-structured interviews. The collected data were analysed using open coding and the Activity Theory framework.

The findings indicate that students had a generally positive perception of SL, though they identified several challenges. The findings suggest that students identified SL’s ability to support active, situated learning in authentic settings as one of its most attractive features. The high fidelity of visual representation and the immersive capabilities of SL positively contributed to their perceptions of learning. The technical and access problems were considered the biggest drawback, but students were optimistic about technical issues not being a barrier to their learning or working in SL in future. Students had a range of views on whether SL was an excellent opportunity to introduce more learning at a distance or whether this was a threat to their preferred way of learning in class. The social nature and the existing SL community of practice received mixed reviews from students, as some were motivated to immerse themselves further into SL while others preferred to ignore its social aspects. The actual usefulness of SL in supporting their future career aspirations was questioned, as students considered SL in relation to other learning technologies used on their programme. It appears to be important that the use of SL is constructively aligned with the curriculum and assessment
strategy.
Date of Award1 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJill Hohenstein (Supervisor), Mary Webb (Supervisor) & Emily Dawson (Supervisor)

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